Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Ambivalence and Change in the Public Status of Religion in Romania during the 2008-2012 Legislative Term1

Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Ambivalence and Change in the Public Status of Religion in Romania during the 2008-2012 Legislative Term1

Article excerpt

The years 2007-2008 have been a turning point in terms of the legal definition and practical application of the Romanian State's policies on Church-State relations: in 2007, the Law no. 489/2006 on religious freedom and the general status of denominations came into force, thus bringing to a point of normalisation the status of religious denominations in the Romanian legal system, after sixteen years of functioning under a largely un-applicable communist-time Decree-Law no. 177/1948 on the general status of religious denominations.

The same year, in July, Patriarch Teoctist (Arapasu) died, and the energetic Metropolitan of Moldova, Daniel Ciobotea, took his place as the leading figure of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the largest religious body in Romania, announcing a change of pace in the latter's engagement with the Romanian society - and with the State. As early as October 2007, under the new Law no. 489/2006, the Romanian Patriarchy had already signed with the Romanian Government a Protocol of cooperation in the field of social inclusion, followed, in July 2008, by a new Protocol of cooperation in the field of social-spiritual and medical assistance between the Romanian Patriarchy and the Ministry of Health2. A new Statute for the organisation and functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church was adopted and recognized by the State in 2008, clearly illustrating the latter's commitment to develop its status as a public religion.

In 2008, the Romanian Government also recognised the Codex iuris canonicis and the Codex canonum Orientalium Ecclesiarum as statutory documents for the Romanand Greek-Catholic Churches respectively3, as well as the new Statutes of almost all the recognised religious denominations4.

However, as it has been shown, this clarification of the general status of religious denominations did not encompass all the legal areas pertaining to the general status of religion as such - i.e. affecting not only religious institutions, but also the social status of (potentially) religiously-informed social values (like that of public morality) and legal institutions (like the family or the definition of the human person). The status of religiously-informed beliefs and values in the public sphere had likewise remained in suspense. Efforts to change legislation in these areas in particular had proven particularly problematic in the past1.

As this is very recent history, there is very little, if any scholarship on the past few years' developments both in the area of the status of religions (plural) and of the status of religion (singular) in the Romanian public space. The tension between the high level of religious affiliation and confidence in "the Church", as revealed by successive polls, and the lower commitment to religious values and their subsequent impact on social mores that defined the first two post-communist decades, between inherited tradition and voluntary commitment to a particular worldview2 remains to this day unsolved. Preliminary results of the 2011 census demonstrate, despite controversies surrounding the administration of the census itself and regardless of the overall decline in the general population, a remarkable consistency with pre-existing trends in the religious affiliation of the Romanian population. Thus, while "historical denominations" (including the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church and the first generation Protestant Churches) experience a slight decline, the so-called Neo-Protestant or Evangelical Churches (and particularly the Pentecostal community) continue to show signs of sustained growth. The one feature that draws attention, a multiplication of declared non-affiliation and atheism respectively, remains marginal3.

Keeping in mind this consistency in the religious affiliation of the Romanian population, we may well wonder if and how this translates (if that is the case) in the legal developments in the area of the public status of religion. In order to verify this, we propose an exploratory enterprise. …

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